On the whole, the upcoming season of classical music events looks similar to seasons of the recent past. There's a fairly healthy variety of offerings to choose from, whether you're looking for new and different sounds or familiar favorites. Existing groups have planned full programs, and a weekend doesn't pass without some kind of classical music event. But change is simmering just beneath the surface. Major players Zephyr and the Spokane Symphony will see changes in artistic leadership after this season, and funding cuts have hit some organizations hard.
Verne Windham dwells in the midst of Spokane's classical music scene, from his position as Arts Director of KPBX, Spokane Public Radio, to his role as the artistic force behind the Spokane Youth Symphony. He doesn't see anything particularly new and exciting in the wings this season, but neither is he a pessimist. "We have a healthy status quo, generally," he says. "Nobody's falling apart."
As in other local arts realms, the health and diversity of the classical music scene falls on the shoulders of a relatively small group of individuals. Windham would like to see that core group expand, to bring new creative juices to the city. "There are some hot new players coming into the Symphony, and they will need to make a place for themselves in the community," he says. "I hope we get some new energy coming in with the new people."
The uncertainties that have plagued financial markets over the last couple of years seem to be percolating through other sectors of the economy and hitting local arts organizations right in the pocketbook. Both Zephyr and the Spokane String Quartet have lost funding from long-time supporter Eastern Washington University, thanks to serious budget woes at the state level. And all non-profits are finding grantors and major donors strapped for cash due to the downturn in the stock market.
Despite the shakiness that change brings, Spokane's classical music organizations are forging ahead with full seasons. Herewith, a concert-goer's guide to autumnal delights.
The music of pianist David Lanz is not exactly classical - or pop or jazz - but his contemporary solo instrumentals draw from a variety of influences, including Cristofori, the Italian harpsichord maker who developed the first piano. Lanz returns to the Met, one of his favorite venues, on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 8 pm for a concert. The Seattle-based pianist and composer is known for humorously engaging his audience between selections, and he's not above poking fun at his own New Age-y persona.
The Seattle Symphony Orchestra plans a four-concert tour of Eastern Washington this fall, with visits to Wenatchee, Sunnyside, Moses Lake and Pullman. Under the direction of Christopher Warren-Green, the orchestra will perform a nearly all-Mozart concert, featuring Maria Larionoff and Mr. Warren-Green on violin. The program includes the Serenade No.13, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Symphony No. 15 in G major, and two divertimenti by Mozart, along with J. S. Bach's Double Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. The orchestra will be at Wallenstein Theater in Moses Lake on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 pm. The Pullman concert, on Friday, Oct. 25, at 8 pm is set for Bryan Hall on the WSU campus.
The music departments of local colleges are always a good source for classical music performances, and they offer the advantage of being generally easier on the wallet as well. In addition to performances, the colleges offer unique educational opportunities, such as master classes or lectures by visiting artists.
The Whitworth College Music Department plans a full semester of events, including lectures or clinics with pianist Arnaldo Cohen, trumpeter Gary Guthman, opera baritone Frank Hernandez and jazz master Jimmy Heath. The recital season begins on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 8 pm with a faculty recital by Richard Strauch, trombone, and Cameron Dunlop, bass trombone. Mark Branscom gives a voice recital on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 4 pm. The Whitworth Wind Symphony performs in Cowles Memorial Auditorium at 4 pm on Sunday, Nov, 24, and the Whitworth String Ensemble appears on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 pm.
First Presbyterian Church in downtown Spokane is the site for the annual Christmas Festival Concerts by the Whitworth College Choir, with three performances on the weekend of Dec. 13 and 14.
The musical schedule at Eastern Washington University in Cheney is still in the planning stages for the fall/winter quarter, but a few events are already on tap. Wednesday concerts in the Chamber Music Series are set for Oct. 9 and Nov. 13, both at 7:30 pm in the Recital Hall. The combined choir and orchestra will present Mozart's Requiem in Showalter Auditorium on Monday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 pm, and the EWU Choir Concert will take place at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, on Riverside in Spokane, Sunday, Dec. 8, at 3 pm.
The Gonzaga University Music Department begins a new Music at the Met series this fall, featuring faculty performers and composers. The first concert in the program, "A Musical Mosaic," happens tonight, Sept. 12, at 7:30 pm, and features pianist Greg Presley, cellist Kevin Hekmatpanah, guitarist Paul Grove and the Mosaic Chamber Ensemble, led by composer, conductor, flutist and saxophonist Robert Spittal. Later events include concerts by the Orchestra and the GU Wind Ensemble, on Sunday, Oct. 13; Thursday, Nov. 21; and Monday, Dec. 9.
In addition, the GU Choir presents a concert on campus on Friday, Oct. 25, and the Chorale will be in concert at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Both groups are directed by Edward Schaefer. The annual Candlelight Christmas Concerts will take place on Dec. 13 and 14 at 8 pm in St. Aloysius Church on the Gonzaga campus.
The University of Idaho opens a new season of the Auditorium Chamber Music Series on Oct. 3 with the male a capella quintet, Ensemble Amacord, from Leipzig, Germany. The group will perform choral works that span five centuries. On Nov. 13, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center arrives to perform quintets and sextets by Mozart, Brahms and Copland.
Washington State University welcomes cellist Alexandre Bouzlov as part of its Young Artist Concert Series on Sept. 25 at Kimbrough Concert Hall. The series also offers celebrated pianist Paavali Jumppanen on Nov. 4. Chill out to the Solstice Wind Quintet on Oct. 1 in Bryan Hall; in November, marvel at the astonishing beauty of the human voice during the Vocal Extravaganza on Nov. 1, also at Bryan Hall. The Seattle Symphony is on tour and makes a stop at Bryan Hall on Oct. 25. The season concludes right before winter break with a Holiday Concert on Dec. 5, followed by a Madrigal Dinner in the CUB (Compton Union) Ballroom on Dec. 6 and 7.
The big news in opera this fall is the presentation of La Boheme, by Giacomo Puccini, under the auspices of Opera Plus! and the Pend Oreille Arts Council. The Western Opera Theater, the touring company of the San Francisco Opera, will perform the audience favorite in Sandpoint at the Panida Theater on Friday, Sept. 27, at 8 pm, and at Schuler Auditorium on the North Idaho College campus in Coeur d'Alene on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8 pm and Sunday, Sept. 29, for a 2 pm matinee. Perry Lorenzo, director of education for Seattle Opera, will be on hand for a pre-opera lecture an hour and a half before each performance.
Speaking of lectures, the Opera Buffs of Spokane has a full lineup of lectures and performances planned this fall on the third Monday of each month at the Rockwood Retirement Community Center on 29th Avenue (three blocks east of Southeast Boulevard). On Oct. 21, Julie Croteau, Bob Brannan, Jennifer Jackson and Christie Jones will sing a variety of operatic arias. Bob Winsor comes in on Nov. 18 with stories of his opera-filled trip to Europe, along with selected arias. And as a holiday treat on Dec. 16, Carolyn and Larry Jess will share Alfred Burt carols and operatic arias, and baritone Max Mendez will sing a variety of arias. All events begin at 6:30 pm. Everyone is welcome, and donations are accepted.
Although Spokane Opera's major production of the year, Don Giovanni, isn't scheduled until next May, that doesn't mean the city will be an opera-free zone. The group plans another Men's Night Out at Far West Billiards on Sept. 18, featuring soprano Leslie Mauldin. A Boise resident, Mauldin has appeared in opera -- including Carmen here this spring -- television and film. She will sing opera, show tunes and the music of Billie Holiday. Anderson & amp; Emami Men's Clothiers will present a men's fall fashion show, with the fashions modeled by members of the Gonzaga University basketball team.
The Seattle Opera Young Artists concert at the Met, also presented by Spokane Opera, is planned for Oct. 4 at 7:30 pm. Six young singers, including Heather Stechler Parker of Spokane, will perform arias, duets and ensembles. Spokane Opera's Bill Graham is excited to be able to present a local artist who's making her mark.
"On November 2, [Parker] will make her debut in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. "Just this week, she's singing in Connecticut as winner of the Sergio Franchi competition, so we're very excited that she's coming to Spokane." Parker also plans to return to Spokane in late November to perform with the Spokane Symphony and in May to sing in Don Giovanni.
This year's Diamonds & amp; Divas holiday extravaganza is settling in to the elegance of the Davenport Hotel, on Dec. 28 from 6 pm until midnight. Spokane Opera singers will join conductor Dean Williamson and a 32-piece orchestra in the Hall of the Doges and the Pennington Ballroom. Food and wine round out the gala event, including a wine auction to be held in the Elizabethan Room.
Soloists and Ensembles
A new concert series gets under way this season with three performances scheduled in the Classical Guitar Series at the Met. Sandpoint guitar impresario Leon Atkinson is behind the series, which is presented by Friends of the Guitar Hour, the supporters of Atkinson's weekly show on KPBX, Spokane Public Radio. The series begins on Sunday, Sept. 15, with a concert by Seattle guitarist Andre Feriante. A former student of Atkinson's, the Italian-born Feriante combines flamenco and Middle Eastern influences with the classical tradition to form his own unique expression. He'll play original compositions along with repertoire by Segovia and Albeniz, and he may even blend poetry into his presentation. Atkinson is on tap for the second concert, on Sunday, Dec. 8, and a spring show will feature another Seattle-based guitarist, Hilary Field. All shows begin at 3 pm.
The Spokane String Quartet returns for its 24th year with a new lineup and a schedule more heavily weighted toward the spring. First violinist Kelly Farris, a founding member of the SSQ, keeps the continuity going in his role as artistic director, in addition to his duties as concertmaster of the Spokane Symphony. This year, he's joined by Tana Bachman, second violin; Nicholas Carper, viola; and Helen Byrne, cello. All of the players serve as either Principal or Assistant Principal with the Spokane Symphony. Both Carper and Byrne were born and raised in Spokane; Bachman graduated from Eastern Washington University.
The group's fall offering is a collaboration with pianist and Zephyr Artistic Director Kendall Feeney, on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 3 pm at the Met. Feeney will join the SSQ in a performance of Dvorak's Second Piano Quartet, Opus 87.
Spokane's period music specialists, Allegro Baroque and Beyond, has another full lineup planned this year, with concerts at the Met and in various historic homes around the area. The Met season begins on Friday, Oct. 25, at 8 pm, with Allegro's large baroque ensemble and featured soloist Jesse Read on baroque bassoon. Read is chair of the music department at the University of British Columbia, but he spends a great deal of time in Europe recording and performing period music. "We'll be doing dramatic music and concertos by Vivaldi and probably by Albinoni, the great Italians," says co-artistic director, Beverly Biggs, who will be performing on the double manual harpsichord that evening.
On Dec. 3 and 4, Allegro presents "Under the Mistletoe," the annual holiday Music in Historic Homes concert. Biggs says the holiday house concerts always sell out, even with eight sittings, so get ready to order tickets as soon as they're available -- one month before the show.
Contemporary chamber music in Spokane won't be the same after this season, when Kendall Feeney steps down as artistic director of Zephyr. That's the bad news. The good news is that there's still one more season to enjoy Feeney's creative programming. On Friday, Nov. 1, Feeney and the rest of the Zephyr players bring virtuoso erh-hu player Chien-Ru Shen to the Met for a concert they're calling "Asian Zephyr." And what's an erh-hu, you may ask? Well, the erh-hu is a Chinese two-stringed instrument that's held upright and played with a bow. The concert begins at 8 pm. Later concerts in the winter will feature tango and a little bit of inspired insanity.
The Westminster Chamber Orchestra is back for another full season of performances in the lovely sanctuary of Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ at 411 South Washington Street in Spokane. The first concert of the season, on Sept. 13 and 14, is a collaboration with the Clarion Brass and features the music of Arensky, Tchaikovsky, Dello Joio, Rutter, Gabrielli and Clarion Brass founder William Berry. Later this fall, pianist Aida Ribeiro joins the orchestra for Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat. Two performances on Nov. 2 and 3 will also feature Mozart Symphonies No. 25 and No. 28, along with the Palm Trilogy for Treble Chorus and String Orchestra by Glick. The orchestra is offering season tickets this year for the first time.
The Spokane Symphony's incredibly popular Chamber Soiree series moves to the Marie Antoinette Ballroom in the Davenport Hotel and expands to two evenings for each program this year. The inaugural shows will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 16 and 17, at 7:30 pm and will feature Symphony principals playing music by Poulenc, Mozart and Dvorak. Concert-goers may choose either table seating, complete with wine and hors d'oeuvres, or gallery seating sans snacks.
The 57th season of the Spokane Symphony -- and the last full season in Music Director Fabio Mechetti's tenure -- gets underway at the Opera House on Sept. 20 with the first Classics concert, featuring Brazilian pianist Arnaldo Cohen. Winner of the Busoni Competition in Italy, Cohen will play the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Franz Liszt and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini on this, his return visit to Spokane.
On Oct. 11, the orchestra devotes the evening to Mahler's Symphony No. 6. "This is a symphony that I've been wanting to do since I came here," Mechetti says. "It's my favorite Mahler symphony. I think now we have enough trust between myself and the orchestra that we can do a good job with that piece."
In a special Wednesday night concert, the Symphony welcomes Grammy Award-winning percussionist Evelyn Glennie on Oct. 30 for a performance of MacMillan's Veni, Veni Emanuel. "We have been trying to get her here for a long time, and finally she could accommodate us," Mechetti explains. "She is phenomenal, and I'm really looking forward to that concert."
Glennie is deaf and plays her instruments while barefoot in order to feel the musical vibrations through the floor. She travels with up to 50 different instruments for each concert. A choral masterpiece rounds out the fall Classics on Nov. 22 as the Spokane Symphony Chorale and four soloists join the orchestra for a presentation of Mozart's C-minor Mass.
In addition to the Classics series, the Symphony at the Met series begins a historical exploration of different musical forms on Nov. 10 and 12 with a concert entitled, simply, "The Concerto." The orchestra's principal players are featured in this program that highlights concertos of different periods. Works by Torelli, Haydn, Strauss, Faure, Dittersdorff and J. C. Bach are planned.
The Cathedral and The Arts plans two special holiday events this year. A Bach Family Holiday: A Day in the Life of Mrs. Bach, scripted by Tamara Schupman, is the group's annual holiday gift to the community, scheduled this year for Sunday, Dec. 1. Actor Patrick Treadway handles the title role of Anna Magdalena Bach; he'll be joined by Roger Welch of the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, soprano Susan Windham, and a cast of children from the Spokane Area Children's Chorus. The Chorus, along with the Spokane Youth Orchestra, will play a selection of Bach cantatas and other pieces. The two performances -- at 4 and 7 pm -- are free to the public, thanks to underwriting from a generous donor.
The Candlelight Christmas Concerts presented by the Cathedral and The Arts will feature the Clarion Brass Ensemble, the Cathedral Concert Choir with singers from the Spokane Area Children's Chorus, and organist Janet Satre Ahrend. Produced by William Berry, this year's concerts include the premiere of Berry's Angels Cantata. Three performances are planned: Saturday, Dec. 21, at 8 pm, and Sunday, Dec. 22, at 4 and 8 pm.
In addition to the holiday concerts, the Spokane Youth Orchestra plans its first orchestral concert of the season in early November.
The Coeur d'Alene Symphony Orchestra has a five-concert subscription season planned at Schuler Auditorium on the North Idaho College campus, but before the season even begins they'll perform at the Governor's Awards in the Arts, this Saturday, Sept. 14. Soloists will be violinist Jason Moody and vocalists Rob Newman, Bill Rhodes and Kay Damiano. The season begins on Oct. 19 at 7:30 pm with a salute to American music and American influences. The program includes Dvorak's New World Symphony, the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe, and selections from Bernstein's West Side Story. The annual Christmas Concert is set for Dec. 7 and 8, with special guest Horace Alexander Young providing a selection of jazz holiday favorites in the second half. The first half of the holiday program features seasonal classics by Bach, Mahler and Handel.